Flintstones peer adapts to language changes

Published 2:19 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

One of the things I enjoy most about sharing about underground railroad history at the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum is teaching how enslaved people, freedom seekers and abolitionists were able to communicate.

They used ways other than direct messages and words that could be easily understood by all who knew them regarding freedom-seeking movements on the underground railroad.  This communication was not easily understood by those who were not aware of the meanings.

These ‘messages’ were a specific kind of language, or codes, that used clothing, foods, nursery rhymes, songs, plants and so much more to convey particular information.

This information could tell a freedom seeker or abolitionists where and how to get to safety, how to stay safe and undetected and where to find help or food while using the underground railroad to gain freedom.

Children especially find this use of communicating fascinating. I tell them underground railroad language is almost like using emojis or computer language to convey messages.

Today’s children have had access to the internet from a very early age, so they understand computer terms and emojis.

But, these same terms and emojis can be confusing to older or unskilled internet users. Since I went to technology school with the Flintstones, I often need help to decipher computer terms and I am amazed at how words have changed meanings during my lifetime.

When I was growing up, cookies were those tasty little treats you brought from the store that came in huge canisters that you could buy two for a penny. (Yeah, I’m that old!)

Spam was canned meat that when fried crispy hard and covered with mustard on two slices of white bread made the best sandwich ever!

A dashboard was the inner front interior of a car and a virus was a cold or the flu.

Hardware came from local hardware stores, like hammers and nails and screws.

A cell is what Miss Pertiller, the science teacher at P. S. Jones High School, made you identify under a microscope, and you had to identify and label every part of the cell to pass her biology test.

To unfriend somebody was to get mad at them and never play with them again.

The web was the biggest spider web in the corner of our front porch by the swing that you had to get an adult with a broom to remove.

When trying to access a certain web site I had to complete a small image showing specific items called a CAPTCHA pronounced ‘capture’ and stands for the acronym (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) which tells a computer system you are a human using the computer program and not a robot.

When I was young and playing running games like Red Light Green Light, I dropped the stick and betcha you can’t catch me, I was told to run fast so other kids playing the game couldn’t ‘capture’ me.

Word is what the Preacher preached on Sunday morning church service and Excel was what your parents expected you to do in your classes at school.

Words can change, meanings can change and if you’re like me, you may be still trying to keep up.  A special hello to all the other Fred and Wilma Flintstones out there!